Climate Crisis & National Deadlock: Despair or Multi-Sacred April?

Dear companions in the Great Turning,

We live in the midst of a planetary cataclysm that threatens human civilization and a national crisis of economic and racial inequality. We should be acting to release Earth from an overdose of gases that have scorched and choked the planet and release marginalized neighborhoods and towns from the fumes of coal and oil that have brought them epidemics of asthma and cancer.

Instead, in the most consequential country on Earth, in Earth, our national political system is in deadly deadlock.

It would be easy to plunge into despair. But at last the communities of faith have awakened to the crash and stink of wildfires beyond control, floods that have drowned people in their homes, heat so intense it kills our elders, famines that drive millions of hungry refugees out of their homes and countries.

And as if by miracle, our year of deadlock also bears a most astonishing April. One that can connect our different faith communities in awe and action.

For in this coming April tåçhere is an unusual confluence of holydays -- Jewish (Passover, starting April 15), Christian (Holy Week, starting April 10) , and Muslim (Ramadan, starting April 2).

And in the hearts if not the formal religious calendars of many people of faith are two other April dates: April 4 – the death-anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King and the date of his “Beyond Vietnam” speech a year earlier, in which he named racism, militarism, and materialism the dangerous triplets afflicting America –- and April 22, Earth Day.

In April, here in the United States we will be in the thick of primary elections. Faith communities in nonviolent action can lift the need to save Earth and Humanity beyond partisan politics not with “moderation” but with prophetic boldness. We can do it not just in Washington DC but everywhere there is a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, meetinghouse.

In all those places will be the campaigns and offices of incumbent and would-be Congresspeople. In all of them will be banks that invest in companies that burn all Earth and pour carbon-laced asthma into the throats of the children of their customers. In all of them are local governments that are – or could be – transforming our homes, our transport systems, our food and farms away from fossil fuels. –

We can transform each local debate into a sacred nonviolent crusade – not against each other but against the greed and cruelty of Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are bringing Plagues upon all Earth.

We sense that the faith communities’ attention to climate/ fossil-fuel issues are a saturated solution that needs a crystal dropped to crystallize with a new intensity. Multireligious commitments to act in April could be the crystal of change.
T.S. Eliot, in The Wasteland, said that “April is the cruellest month, / breeding lilacs out of the dead land, / mixing memory and desire, /stirring dull roots with spring rain.” ----

But we can say that Next April is the holiest month, Breathing us to heal the dying Earth, Mixing sorrow with fierce urgency, Confronting dulled rulers with spring joy.

We do not mean that we abandon our sacred practices and symbols and ceremonies to take this action. No – we deepen them, we transform them.

• We might turn Palm Sunday back into what it was in the beginning -- the nonviolent march to face the puppet government of the Empire.
• We might deepen the fasts of Ramadan and of Lent and of the Jewish avoidance of swollen chametz (leavening) into boycotting the products that burn our people and our Earth.
• We might take a third-day Passover Seder into the streets, waving the Matzah and the Bitter Herb outside or inside the branches of the Chase Bank that is the #1 investor in destroying Earth, our common home. “Move Our Money – Protect Our Planet” becomes our slogan.
• We might shape the Quaker silence into silent marches against death to the campaign offices of candidates for Congress from every party ---silent till we shout the name of an elder killed by heat stroke, a child dying of famine, a family drowned in a flood that invades their own home.

And so forth, on dates carefully chosen during April to highlight and share the sacred practices of many different religious and spiritual communities.

These are my own imaginings of what we could do. But the decisions of a coalition of faith communities will have to work out an agreed repertoire of actions and demands. Perhaps a coalition body lists a number and range of possible demands and oleaves each participating group free to choose.

How do we begin?

Several weeks ago, we decided to try the idea out with Bill McKibben, and this is what he answered: “this is very smart indeed. shall i ask the people at greenfaith what they think?”

GreenFaith has been an effective center for multireligious action on climate. It was the managing organization of the October 11-13 rallies in Washington during which I was arrested. So of course I said to McKibben “Yes!” He wrote GreenFaith, and they wrote me, “We were intrigued by the idea! Maybe we can take some time to discuss while we're together in DC. I do think it could be the next course of action for our multi-faith crew.”

But of course a great movement of faith-filled Americans cannot depend on any one organization. What we can do is spread the idea. And by “we” here I mean not just us at the offices of The Shalom Center or GreenFaith but all of us who see the truth of danger and seek to transform it with the Truth of passion, compassion, love, and unity. The Truth of Shmita writ large, not just for the Jewish people or all the lifeforms and eco-systems crowded into the sliver of land on the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean but to all life on this round planet.

Will you make five copies of this letter from me and send each one to a friend of yours, maybe a fellow-congregant who’s a go-getter, maybe your clergyperson or spiritual leader., maybe an activist nun. Add a note saying, “What do you think of this multi-faith April Action idea?”

And then ask them over for coffee and cookies. Talk about it. What could you-all do on April 4? Om the third day of Passover? For Palm Sunday? For the fast days of Ramadan? Let us know what you think. Write us!

And we will be creating some ideas and actions for you to choose from, that honor your religious life by drawing on it to heal our neighborhoods, our country and our planet.

With blessings for you to use well the sacred Truth that leads to sacred action – Arthur

[Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds, for eco/ social justice, peace, and healing of our wounded Earth. His 28 books include The Limits of Defense, From Race Riot to Sit-in, The Freedom Seder, Seasons of our Joy, and Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion. He has been arrested 28 times in protests against many forms of injustice and oppression. You can reach him by writing with “April Action” as the subject line.]



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